Universal health care aims to achieve a sustainable developmental model of society. This system aims to provide accessible health care for everyone.
According to the World Health Organization, health is one of the fundamental human rights. This means the health care system that ensures the highest standard of health, should be accessible to everyone. But due to the privatization of the health sector, quality health care remains accessible to the economically privileged.
The universal healthcare system aims to contend with the limited accessibility of health facilities.
However, the United States is the only country among the 33 developed nations that do not have universal healthcare. There is a polarized opinion within the government regarding the advantages and disadvantages of universal health care. While a section of the government (Democrats) supports accessible health care, the opposition (Republicans) is against the system of universal health care.
In this article we will look at the negative effects of universal health care, to understand whether it is detrimental to the medical infrastructure. But before we get into that, let us look at how universal healthcare works.
What is Universal Health Care?
- Universal health care system is not necessarily free healthcare. The aim of this system is to make healthcare coverage accessible to everyone. This is made possible only through a sustainable system, as it is not always possible for public funding to bear the entire expenses of the health care system.
- Universal healthcare system does not simply finance healthcare. It is a system that aims to make the healthcare infrastructure developed and efficient. This is made possible by several roles played by the state to educate people about the importance of healthcare, spread awareness through programs, invest in research and development in the field of medical science, and improve the state of communication technology. This system also ensures that the health standard of the society is maintained- sanitation, supply of clean drinking water, pest control are also covered in this system. The government is responsible for the maintenance of a competent healthcare workforce. It actively legislates laws and regulates the medical market to make healthcare universal and accessible.
- This system of universal healthcare is not just about supervising individual treatments. It plays a significant role in providing mass education, as can be seen In Hong-Kong where the state provides compulsory health education to the children, funds prevention and control of chronic diseases like diabetes, blood pressure. It also provides provisions and childbirth benefits to women and infants.
What services are included under the provision of essential healthcare?
The state ensures that people have access to essential healthcare services. The World Health Organization divides essential healthcare services into four categories:
- Maternal care and provisions for infants- the state ensures that women receive proper antenatal care. It is the responsibility of the healthcare system to provide efficient services for the delivery of infants. The immunization of the infants is taken care of through the provision of necessary vaccines. Family planning and health education also fall under this category.
- The treatment of contagious diseases- The state actively intervenes to provide for services that are required to stop the spreading of infectious diseases like hepatitis, HIV, tuberculosis. Several public campaigns are planned to educate the public, to make them aware of the health hazards from certain diseases, and the possible preventive measures that can be taken to avoid infection.
- Treatment and prevention of non-contagious diseases- The government funds preventive healthcare for chronic diseases such as diabetes, blood pressure. The Government provides facilities that are necessary for the detection and diagnosis of cancer.
- Accessibility to healthcare services- The state provides efficient health care services to its people. The goal of the government is to make the system of receiving healthcare smooth and hassle-free. This is made possible through the maintenance of a competent workforce which can deliver quality healthcare services. The government also plays an important administrative role so that the process of delivering healthcare is not slowed down.
The Three Categories of Universal Health Care
1. Socialized healthcare
The government owns the hospitals, and the doctors and the entire workforce are employed by the state. An example of this system would be the National Health Service in the United Kingdom.
2. Single-payer healthcare
The State provides medical insurance to its citizen, but the hospitals are still privately owned. The healthcare system in Canada is the single-payer system, where a public funding system bears the expenses of healthcare services.
3. Private insurance
Private insurance companies are allowed to sell their service, but the government regulates it and makes it mandatory for everyone to have some insurance plan. Switzerland has a regulated health insurance system.
The Negative effects of Universal Health Care
There are multiple advantages of universal health care system. Government regulation ensures that the cost of healthcare services remain affordable to the general public.
However, there are a few cons of the universal health care system.
- The Universal health care system often has a long waiting time. As the government focuses on essential health service and basic medical service, people with rare diseases often have to wait for a very long time before they get access to healthcare specialists.
- Universal healthcare requires an effective budget allocation. The failure to have proper budget management and planning might result in the reduction of the budget in other areas, thus hampering the overall standard of other government services.
- Due to low expenditure, research, and development in the field of medical science might suffer a setback. Low funding in research reduces the incentives for proper research and development. It is for this reason, in a universal healthcare system, the overall standard of the medical service might be compromised.
- The Universal healthcare system often requires cutting down on costs of treatment and medication. This might prove fatal for people with the minimal scope of recovery, where instead of administering expensive treatment and costly medication, cheaper palliative care is provided to them.
- Universal healthcare might put more pressure on doctors. The cutting down of costs might necessitate more patients allocation to the doctors. This might be the reason for excessive stress on the doctors, and as a result of which their diagnosis might be inaccurate.
- People might become irresponsible about their health. The availability of cheap healthcare in the universal healthcare system might make people less cautious about their health.
- The payouts the doctors receive for their service are substantially reduced to make the medical facility cost-effective. This may result in less investment and lower engagement between the doctors and their patients.
- The allocation of a large portion of the funds for the treatment of chronic disorder might also be an issue. People who are wealthy and do not suffer from any chronic disorder might have to indirectly bear the expenses of the other people through means such as taxation.
These are a few of the negative effects of universal health care. Better legislation and policies can improve the universal healthcare system, to make it more efficient.